Justice League’s motto: Do no harm

Justice League movie logo

No major spoilers but the spoiler adverse should pass this up.

The subtitle of Justice League could be “Do No Harm.” One of the main missions of the film seems to be to repair the damage done to DC Comics characters in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In that regard, Justice League succeeds.

(OK spoiler sensitive types bail out now.)

The film brings back Superman who had died at the end of Batman v Superman. What’s more, he’s brought back (after an understandable period of adjustment) as being….well, Superman.

With 2013’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the Man of Steel was full of self doubt, unsteady and, at times, not very Superman-like. In Justice League, Henry Cavill’s Superman costume looks like it has been cleaned. It looked dirty in his previous two appearances.

Even better, Superman embraces being a hero. That’s what Superman does. The movie doesn’t have Clark Kent wink at the audience, the way comic book Clark Kent did decades ago. But it’s a big improvement. And Superman actually isn’t in the movie that much.

Other characters do a lot of the heavy lifting. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman understandably carries a lot of the load. Jason Momoa grabs attention as Aquaman, a character general audiences probably aren’t that familiar with. Ezra Miller brings a neurotic take on the Flash.

Finally, there’s Ben Affleck’s Batman. The actor took much of the brunt of criticism for Batman v Superman, which depicted the character at times as a homicidal maniac. The “do no harm” label applies here as well. Batman is more on an even keel (well, as much as a guy who dresses up in a Bat costume can). The new-look Affleck/Batman even shows some compassion at times.

The production of this film has been a bit of a soap opera. Extensive rewrites and reshoots. A large budget, raising doubts whether this movie will ever earn a dime of profit. And even having Henry Cavill’s mustache (grown for Mission: Impossible 6) digitally erased in the reshoots.

And, of course, there has been plenty of speculation whether Affleck will return as Batman. Intentional or not, a scene in the film evokes this when Affleck’s aging Bruce Wayne acknowledges he can’t keep being Batman much longer.

In the end, the movie makes the viewer forget the soap opera. That may be the biggest compliment one can provide. GRADE: B-Plus.

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Some critics get out the knives for Justice League

Justice League movie logo

Some critics have gotten out the knives for Justice League, the Warner Bros./DC Comics movie debuting this week.

Rotten Tomatoes is waiting a bit to unveil its “fresh” rating for Justice League. So it’s hard to tell how representative these non-spoiler excerpts are.

Still, it’s clear some critics are feeling no restraint. (One headline: “‘Justice League’ Is a Big, Ugly Mess.”)

RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR: “The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it—and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.”

ALONSO DURALDE, THE WRAP: “(I)f you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells.”

CHRIS NASHAWATY, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Some day, hopefully soon, DC will get the recipe right again and duplicate Wonder Woman’s storytelling magic. But today isn’t that day, and Justice League unfortunately isn’t that film. C+”

MATT GOLDBERG: COLLIDER: “In place of disaster, Justice League is a largely bland, forgettable affair that has nice moments scattered throughout and the promise of a better tomorrow, but outside of Wonder Woman, that’s all the DCEU ever really offers: the promise that the next movie will be better. And sure, Justice League is better than Batman v Superman, but that doesn’t make it good.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “This is surely the most infantile of recent superhero yarns – a film that squanders the talents of an impressive ensemble cast and eschews any meaningful characterisation in favour of ever more overblown special effects.”

To be fair, some critics have liked the movie. Here’s a sampling. Some of these are mixed (or have caveats), but here are complimentary excerpts:

MARK HUGHES, FORBES.COM: Justice League “retains enough of the DNA of the previous (DC-based) films to be recognizable as their successor, while carving out a new space closer to the tone and style of action-adventure superheroism found in Wonder Woman. And it offers average movie-goers the sort of chest-swelling sense of heroism and pure joyful entertainment they love and reward with their hard-earned dollars at the box office.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “The film is the definition of an adequate high-spirited studio lark: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that may mostly be because they’re excited about getting excited. Yet the movie is no cheat. It’s a tasty franchise delivery system that kicks a certain series back into gear.”

TASHA ROBINSON, THE VERGE: “And taken as a whole, Justice League is often thrilling and rousing, with few of the outright infuriating twists that have made past DCEU movies so frustrating…For once, the heroes have a relatively black-and-white battle ahead of them, without existential questions about whether humanity deserves saving, or whether they deserve to save humanity. And that lets the characters cut loose in a triumphant barrage of over-the-top carnage that shows them each to their best heroic potential.”

Wonder Woman sequel to debut 1 week before Bond 25

Wonder Woman poster

Bond 25’s U.S. competition just got tougher.

Warner Bros. has rescheduled Wonder Woman 2, the sequel to this year’s hit, to Nov. 1, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter said. That’s six weeks earlier than it’s previous release date of Dec. 13 — and one week before Bond 25’s current U.S. date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Warners moved the Wonder Woman sequel after Walt Disney Co. moved Star Wars Episode IX to Dec. 20, 2019, THR said. That movie originally had a May 2019 release date. But the Star Wars entry changed directors (to J.J. Abrams from Colin Trevorrow), causing Disney to push back its release.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions announced the Nov. 8 date for Bond 25 in July. For the moment, there isn’t an official distributor for the 007 movie. However, Deadline: Hollywood reported on Sunday that MGM and Annapurna Pictures’ new distribution joint venture is close to being named the U.S. distributor of Bond 25. An international distributor hasn’t been decided, Deadline said.

If the Nov. 8 date stands, Bond 25 will have major competition in the U.S. from the second weekend of Wonder Woman 2. (Bond 25 is to come out earlier internationally but a date hasn’t been specified.) Patty Jenkins, who directed this year’s film, is scheduled to helm the sequel.

One potential caveat: Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip operation, on Nov. 11 reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is balking at playing the character again if producer-mogul Brett Ratner’s RatPac-Dune is involved with Wonder Woman 2. Warner Bros. has called that story false.

RatPac-Dune has helped finance a number of Warner Bros. movies over the past few years, including Wonder Woman. Ratner, meanwhile, has been accused of sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, given how Wonder Woman was both a critical and box office hit, Warner Bros. has incentive to get Gadot back. She has been a major part of the marketing for Justice League, which comes out this week.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported separately that the RatPac-Dune deal with Warner Bros. expires in spring 2018 and likely won’t affect Wonder Woman 2.

Footnote: Warner Bros. has been among those studios vying to be a Bond 25 distributor.

Justice League trailer: Many explosions, bit of humor

Warner Bros. this morning brought out a new trailer for Justice League, its big superhero movie. The film, due out Nov. 17, has been the subject of a lot of press coverage and seen extensive reshoots.

The new trailer features a lot of explosions and mayhem as Earth is imperiled with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) leading a new team.

And there’s some humor toward the end, presumably Warners’ way of addressing criticism that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was too dark and moody.

Speaking of Superman, this is the first Justice League trailer where he appears. But it’s still unclear how they’re going to bring him back.

Here’s the trailer:

Justice League’s soap opera

Justice League movie logo

Justice League, still almost three months from reaching audiences, has generated behind-the-scenes drama the past few months that may be tough for the film itself to match.

Examples:

–Director Zack Snyder took himself off post-production duties because of a family tragedy, the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter in March.

–Even before that, it became known that Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to revise the story. Whedon previously directed the first two Avengers movies for rival Marvel Studios.

–Whedon took over directing of extensive reshoots, estimated by Variety at $25 million, beyond the normal level that occur after principal photography has ended.

–One of the movies stars, Henry Cavill as Superman, can’t shave the mustache he grew for the unfinished Mission: Impossible 6. So his reshoots will involve digitally erasing said mustache. Naturally, this led to people coming out of images of Cavill’s Superman with a mustache.

–In the midst of this, Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, wrote a guest column for TheWrap on Aug. 20 about the writer-director’s marital infidelities. “I want to let women know that he is not who he pretends to be,” she wrote. While this doesn’t affect the film, it’s not the kind of publicity a studio likes about an expensive project.

The thing is, Warner Bros. and its DC Comics unit are on a roll after Wonder Woman generated both good reviews and a global box office of more than $800 million.

Of course, if the movie is a hit most of this will end up as a footnote. In 1975, for example, everybody forgot production woes and cost overruns of Jaws.

Warner Bros.’s Batman PR problem

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in a Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE (July 22): Ben Affleck said at the San Diego Comic Con today he’s still playing Batman, according to numerous reports.

Among the outlets reporting on Affleck’s remarks: COLLIDER.COM, the New York DAILY NEWS and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

It was the latter, in a story on Friday, that said Warner Bros. was ready to ease Affleck out of the role.

ORIGINAL POST (July 21): Just when Warner Bros.’s DC Extended Universe seems to get on track, it’s undergoing a public relations problem during the San Diego Comic Con.

You remember when the DCEU finally was getting good PR? It was just last month when Wonder Woman generated both ticket sales and positive reviews.

Just weeks later, the buzz is that Warner Bros. (aka “Mr. Warner,” this blog’s nickname for the studio) is getting ready to ease the current Batman, Ben Affleck, out of the role. At least’s that’s according to a story by Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter.

Affleck got top billing in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That movie introduced Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. It did good (but sub $1 billion worldwide) business while getting terrible reviews.

Still, Affleck’s Batman created a buzz. First, it was the actor would write, direct and star in a solo Batman movie titled The Batman. Then, well, he wasn’t going to direct after all.

A new director, Matt Reeves, was hired. Initially, the buzz was that Affleck’s script would be used. Then, this month, the news came out that Affleck’s script was being jettisoned and things would start over.

Now, Affleck himself may be out. Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

(A) source with knowledge of the situation says that the studio is working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman — gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films. Exactly when and how that might happen has yet to be determined, but it would be wise to bet against Affleck starring in The Batman.

The thing is, the massive San Diego convention has become a forum for studios to promote upcoming films, and not just movies based on comic books.

Justice League is the next DCEU film and a followup to Batman v Superman. It’s supposed to address some of the faults (i.e. too gloomy) present in the 2016 film.

In Batman v Superman, Affleck, who turns 45 on Aug. 15, played an older Batman. It was very much influenced by the 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns by writer-artist Frank Miller. In that story, Batman comes out of retirement.

We’ll see how all this turns out. Still, it’s doubtful Mr. Warner appreciates the “Affleck is out” buzz generated by The Hollywood Reporter story.

Wonder Woman 2d weekend bests other DC movies

Wonder Woman poster

Wonder Woman, during its second weekend in the U.S., outperformed two 2016 Warner Bros./DC movies.

Wonder Woman’s U.S.-Canada box office totaled $58.2 million for the June 9-11 weekend, according to the Box Office Mojo website. That was a 43 percent decline compared with its opening weekend. That’s a smaller dropoff compared with most films.

By comparison, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a second weekend of $51.3 million (a 69 percent plunge from opening weekend). Suicide Squad’s second weekend totaled $43.5 million (a 67 percent drop).

Both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad opened better than Wonder Woman. But bad reviews and word of mouth contributed to their fast declines at the box office.

By contrast, Wonder Woman received a lot of rave reviews. In March, there were estimates it would have a $65 million opening weekend. It came in at $103.3 million.

As a result, Warner Bros. received a lift as it competes with Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. The question is whether the good mojo will carry over to Justice League, set to be released in November.